15 Jul 2017

Prior to admission, there are many roles that a person may fulfil – husband, father, partner, grandparent, handyman, bill payer, lover, gardener, confidant, church goer, friend, shopper, cook, babysitter, mechanic, driver, Rotarian, problem solver, protector, rubbish remover, neighbour and so the list goes on. The step through the nursing home door often results in the shedding of roles as if they are sucked like yellow sticky notes into the air conditioning unit until all that is left is the role of ‘resident’.

We all need to feel wanted, valued and that there is a reason to get out of bed every day. The environments we create for people living in aged care need to be ones where residents do feel valued and needed and where there is a reason to get out of bed every day. One of the ways we can do this is to enable residents to make meaningful contributions to their community, to have a say in their day, and to have the opportunity for meaningful activity.

For many the role of ‘resident only’, leaves them with little choice, activity or meaning in their lives. Days can be spent with hours of ‘nothing’, waiting for something, anything to happen to break the boredom. Whilst all aged care facilities have activity programs, at the very best they offer 3-4 activities a day, for 3-4 hours per day, five days a week. This leaves many hours a week without planned activities.

It is possible to fill the day with meaningful activity and roles. A day that provides variety and activity from morning to evening. Activity tables and areas, and interactive wall spaces can provide opportunities for self-initiated activity. When residents are invited to help with daily activities such as setting tables, sweeping, watering the garden, and making beds the days can be filled with interest and meaning.

In an industry where the catch cry is often ‘No money, no staff, no time’, staff are doing many jobs that could be and should be carried out by residents. Setting tables, wheeling trolleys, filling water jugs or sugar bowls, buttering bread, to name just a few. We need to identify resident likes, needs and strengths and then match these to roles and activities to give everyone a reason to get out of bed every day.